Burn baby, burn

It’s easy to blame unwanted weight gain on a slow metabolism. But before you go pointing fingers, give your metabolism a fair chance to accelerate. Between yo-yo dieting and inactivity, we have managed to bring nothing but madness to our metabolic system. A weak or slow metabolism makes weight management, weight loss and even healthy weight gain nearly impossible; therefore, no matter what your fitness goal, understanding your metabolism is a huge factor. The good news is sanity can still be found. Believe it or not your metabolism can be improved and strengthened. The first step is to give up on any pill or shake promising to ignite some metabolic flame; it’s nothing but a puff of smoke.

In trying to speed up your metabolism the first and most important thing to do is work on improving, and avoid damaging, your basal metabolic rate. Your BMR is the amount of calories or energy you spend doing everyday activities like sleeping, sitting in class, watching The Newlyweds on MTV, or evening flipping through the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. Exercise is the number one way to improve your BMR. Because lean tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue, by exercising you are increasing the amount of metabolically active tissue in your body. This means that someone who has more muscle and less fat will burn more calories sitting and watching TV than someone with more fat and less muscle would. That’s why exercise is so great; even long after you hop off that treadmill or throw down your dumbbells, your body is still reaping the benefits of those actions. In building a muscular or lean body through exercise, you build your own fat-burning machine.

Now that your metabolic flame is burning, how can you keep it from blowing out? Diet plays a huge factor in your metabolic system. Severe caloric restrictions can decrease your BMR by a significant 45 percent Therefore feed your flame by being consistent in how much you eat and how often you eat. Skipping breakfast, yo-yo dieting, and going longer than four or five hours without eating, all throw water on the flame. Even if you aren’t hungry, condition yourself to grab a glass of OJ, a banana, a granola bar — something — in the morning. After a six to nine hour night of rest and no food, your flame is getting low and breakfast is its fuel. Throughout the day, make sure you’re not going longer than four or five hours without eating. Peanuts, a health bar, crackers and fruit are all simple snacks to carry with you without having to worry about packing or preparing much. It’s easy to keep light snacks around and believe it or not, those extra calories will pay off by sunset.

Finally, women especially tend to underestimate how much food we need in a day. Here is a simple formula to give you a ballpark figure on your caloric needs. Though accurate, keep in mind if you have your body fat or VO2 measured, you can more accurately determine your BMR; but in general terms, this two-part equation can be found in many nutrition text books and by numerous registered dieticians.

There are two parts to this equation

Part I
Males: Multiply body weight in pounds by 11
Females: Multiply body weight in pounds by 10
Final answer = BMR, minimum amount of calories to be consumed per day
Choose activity level from one of three categories below and multiply weight in pounds
Sedentary – MEN 3.2 WOMEN 3.0
Light – MEN 6.0 WOMEN 5.0
Moderate – MEN 7.2 WOMEN 6.0
Heavy – MEN 10.5 WOMEN 9.0
Ex 160lbs x 6.0 = 960 calories

Part II
Add A and B together. This equals total number of calories needed to maintain current weight..
*To lose weight, subtract 200
*To gain weight, add 500
Ex 1760 + 960 = 2720 (+500 OR -200)

No matter how it adds up, we need calories! Our metabolic system won’t work right without them. So fuel your body based on your individual goals and needs. In turn you will build your very own fat-burning machine.